Local Catholic school students participate in march

BOSTON — For the first time, a group of Catholic high school students from the archdiocese joined the tens of thousands marching for life in Washington, D.C. The trip was sponsored by the archdiocesan Pro Life and Vocation Offices.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley encouraged the 55 teens headed to the March for Life to be “willing prophets of the Gospel of life” at an early morning Mass at St. John’s Seminary on Jan. 22.

“When you go to Washington, you are going to see thousands and thousands of young people from all over our country who share our faith and share our communal missions,” Archbishop O’Malley said.

The archbishop contrasted the willingness of those youth to share God’s message with Jonah, a “reluctant prophet” who attempted to flee away from his responsibility to warn the people of Nineveh to change their ways.

“We don’t want to be like Jonah,” Archbishop O’Malley said. “Jonah knew that if you have an unpopular message, that you’re going to be unpopular, and so he tried to go and hide.”

“You shouldn’t be surprised by the opposition you encounter in the world through Jesus’ message,” he added. “We do have a message that is difficult for people to hear in today’s world, but it is a message of hope because part of our message is that our God loved the world so much that He sent our savior Jesus Christ to us.”

Abortion, like violence, euthanasia, the redefinition of marriage, materialism and the exploitation of the poor are “symptoms of a spiritual illness of a society built without God.”

Catholics are concerned for unborn babies, their mothers, and those who perform abortions. People of faith must show others that God cares about them, is calling them and never tires of forgiveness, the archbishop said.

“Our goal is to change people’s hearts as well as change unjust laws. And to do that we have to begin by changing our own heart by making God and His commandments and His love the center of our lives,” he said. “We all need to repent and believe in the Good News.”

God calls all people to repentance, which means turning their lives away from selfishness and toward God, he added.

The group of teenagers represents five local Catholic schools — Cathedral High School in Boston, Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Malden Catholic High School in Malden and Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen.

Organizing a trip for Boston high school students has been in the works for several years and been encouraged by the archbishop, Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro Life Office, told the Pilot in a Jan. 20 interview.

“This is what Archbishop Seán has very much wanted to do,” she said. “We had it all set up to go last year, but then there was a blizzard. We had to cancel it.”

“When the kids go to the march, they will see the tens of thousands of other young Catholics from across the country who are committed to the Gospel of life. It’s a very inspiring thing,” Luthin said.

In recent years an increasing number of youth have participated in the March for Life, she said.

“That’s a very hopeful sign for the future,” Luthin said.

The students left immediately after the Mass. They were expected to attend the national vigil for life at the Basilica in Washington and a youth rally along with the march. Arrangements had been made for them stay two nights at a local high school, Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va. and meet students, she said.

“They have a pro-life club there, so they’re going to have the opportunity to meet and interact with the kids from Boston,” she said.

Luthin added that she hoped the Boston students would be inspired to be more involved in their own parishes and schools when they returned home.